“The word is “Christmas.” Say it pal!” Fox News Commentator Bill O’ Reilly rides again, and so does our annual “War on Christmas.” Personally, I’m uncomfortable forcing anyone to say anything, because if they’re not saying something, they usually have a good reason.
So why all the controversy? Elementary, my dear. Simply look at the term “Christmas.” It expresses two opposite ends of a spectrum. In the mental health world, this condition is called bi-polar. The main contributor to Christmas Controversies is Christmas’ bi-polar nature. It’s literally in Christmas’ DNA.
When Americans say the word Christmas, they are either discussing: (1) the religious events, which commemorate Jesus’ birth or (2) the secular celebrations characteristic of midwinter celebrations – annual traditions that predate Christ’s birth: the lights, the evergreen decorations, the gift giving, the music, the food, the chance to get together with family and friends, and the special feeling of warmth that the season brings. When one side of the bi-polar equation won’t let anyone else play their reindeer games, temper flair and controversy arises and sometimes the games get cancelled. Take for example the 2007 Christmas Controversy in the state of Washington when the state got itself into all kinds of trouble with holiday displays inside their state capitol building. The next year Washington would not allow any public displays. They opted instead for a state-sponsored “holiday tree.”
From its inception, the Christmas celebration has been a concoction of preexisting pagan winter revels mixed with Christian subject matter; and because of this, it never was, nor can it ever be, the pure spiritual holiday that so many wish it would be.
A near-perfect example of the bi-polar nature of Christmas lies with the Wassail Wenches or Wassail Virgins. To wassail is to drink to someone’s health at Christmas, especially from a decorated bowl filled with seasonal spirits (i.e., drink). Forget about the oxymoron of wassailing (i.e., drunkenness and good health). The World Encyclopedia of Christmas tells us that these “Wassail Wenches” were English women who went door-to-door at Christmas, caroling and calling blessings on the homes they visited. By the 17th century, it was a way for women to gather alms. These two names “Wassail Wenches” and “Wassail Virgins” for the exact same tradition illustrate a common phenomenon with various Christmas traditions. There almost always seems to be two diametrically opposed sides to any Christmas tradition. In this case, if people don’t like the raunchy, Hugh Hefner term “Wassail Wenches,” let’s just sanitize it by saying the tradition is purely innocent and let’s just call them “Wassail Virgins.” Talk about opposite ends of a spectrum! A “wench” can be a female servant (picture a waitress in a pub serving pirates), or a lewd woman, which is synonymous with a prostitute. The verb “wench” means to practice fornication while a virgin is chaste and pure. I guess its relative … whatever we want it to be.
So… tell me. Is the Christmas tree a Christian symbol or a secular (pagan) one? Unless one considers the previous question as relative (i.e., “It doesn’t matter. It’s whatever we want it to be.”), we need to look at history to unearth the answer. Additionally, if you’re a Christian (like me… although I prefer the term “Lover of God & People”), then you’d better pull out your Bible and be a Berean too (search out the answers by studying to show yourself approved of God, not man).
In my article “Where the Christmas Tree Comes From” http://wp.me/p158HG-5i , I specifically focus on the legends of the Christmas Tree that have been handed down by Christian lore. Notice that I said “legends.” How many of us have believed religious leaders and traditions, and used these tall tales to justify what we do? Pick me. I bought that T-shirt, wore it out, and bought it again.
Not one of the Christian Christmas Tree legends is based entirely on fact. Some are a mixture of historical truths and myths while others are totally made up. For instance, the go-to story for many devout Christians is the make-believe tradition that Martin Luther began, the custom of decorating trees to celebrate Christmas. If you know the story, you’ve heard that one crisp Christmas eve, Luther was walking through snow-covered woods when he was struck by the beauty of a group of small evergreen trees. Their gorgeous branches were dusted with snow and shimmered in the moonlight. When Luther got home, we are told that he set up a little fir tree so he could share this story with his children. To put a cherry on top, we are also told Luther decorated the fir with candles, which he lit in honor of Christ’s birth. It’s just too bad that no one did the math when they made up this Christmas Tree legend, because there’s no historical evidence of a tree of this kind until 50 years after Luther’s death, and those had no lights. If you want to have some good old-fashioned sensual fun with this legend that’s one thing, but personally I will not place my faith in something littered with lies.
The evergreen element, which has been displayed at the turn of the Winter Solstice since ancient times, literally links ancient and modern traditions. In ages gone by, the evergreen (coniferous, fir and palm) trees have been used in conjunction with celebrating various sun gods’ birthdays. (Please refer to “Where Christmas Comes From – Part 1” http://wp.me/p158HG-1t .) Babylon marks the beginning of tree or creation worship, and spread throughout the entire earth. An old Babylonian tale tells of an evergreen tree, which sprang out of a dead tree stump. The old stump symbolized the dead Nimrod, the new evergreen tree was said to symbolize that Nimrod had come back to life again in Tammuz. The Christmas Tree was equally common in pagan Egypt as in pagan Rome.
The people in Jeremiah’s day were making an idol out of a tree. Although Jeremiah 10:3-4 refers to making an actual statue, it’s also the most enlightening scripture in regard to a Christmas Tree. “For the customs of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of a forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter.” The Christmas Tree recapitulates the idea of tree worship with gilded nuts and balls on a tree symbolizing the sun. Today, on the birthday of all the sun gods in ancient antiquity, most Christians currently bow down in front of a tree hung with sun images (i.e. ornaments) to exchange gifts with one another in honor of the ancient commemoration of the Nativity of the Sun, without realizing its idolatrous origins.
Back to the controversy over Christmas. What’s with this holiday that makes it okay for someone “with religion” to make their point by being disrespectful and rude to someone else? Come on… “The word is ‘Christmas.’ Say it pal!” Any other time of year that attitude wouldn’t fly for people trying to be the light to the nations and Christ’s disciples known for their love. I contend that it doesn’t work during Christmastime either, except to garnish camaraderie among like-minded individuals.
If you read between the lines, pro-Christmas Christians are protesting, “Don’t you dare take Christ out of Christmas!” First of all, could anyone take Christ out of Christmas if He didn’t allow it? Perhaps, something much deeper is going on beyond these surface-level holiday skirmishes. It’s wise to take a closer look, especially when one considers that as of this Biblical year the reign of God’s Kingdom has begun in a way never experienced before and one of His premier focuses is His pure and spotless Bride.
If it appears that someone is taking “Christ” out of Christmas, maybe we should consider if Jesus Christ of Nazareth is taking Himself out of Christmas. We started with looking at the word “Christmas” in its secular-religious bi-polar finest. When people say “Christmas” what do they mean? I’m going to a Christmas worship service celebrating Jesus’ birth? Or I’m going to celebrate Christmas in all it secular glory with those I love? Many Christians don’t realize that these are two opposite ends of a spectrum. I say most Christians don’t realize, because the Buddhists, Muslims, Atheists, Secularists, Pagans, Witches, Satanists, etc, who all also celebrate Christmas, sees the Church’s disconnect.
So where does the actual word “Christmas” come from, and what does it actually mean? According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the phrase “Christ’s mass” (i.e. Christmas) is first found in the 11th century – 1038 AD to be exact. Prior to this time Christmastime was associated with the Winter Solstice, Midwinter and Winter Revels. For simplicity sake, I use the term “Christmas” most times instead of “Winter Solstice” when I am referring to the winter festivities prior to the 11th century. The first recorded evidence of a “Christian Christmas” taking place on December 25th isn’t found until the time of Constantine in 336 AD. If you know anything about Constantine, there’s plenty of reasons to doubt if this was truly Christian (See “Where Christmas Comes From – Part 1” http://wp.me/p158HG-1t ).
The handy-dandy Catholic Encyclopedia also credits Mithra’s Winter Festival (also known as “The Nativity,” “The Nativity of the Sun,” or “The Nativity of the Unconquered Sun”) as claiming strong responsibility for the December 25th date of Christmas. Mithra was one of the favorite sun gods adopted by Rome, especially among the nobility and the Roman Legion. Mithra was the Persian version of the original Babylonian sun god Tammuz.
As to the meaning of the word “Christmas,” Dr. Neil Chadwick shines a glaring light on this subject in his “Christmas Glossary” sermon, which used to reside at http://www.webedelic.com/church/chrisch.htm, but is now no longer available. Luckily, I saved the sermon on December 31, 2005 at 9:38 AM. Here are Dr. Chadwick’s comments about a dominant word in his Christmas glossary, the very word used to identify this holiday, “Christmas”:
“Obviously, the first part of the word refers to the fact that Christmas commemorates the coming of the Messiah to this world. “Christos” is Greek for the word “anointed” which in turn is “Messiah” in Hebrew. …
The second syllable in the word “Christmas” has a long history going all the way back to St. Ambrose who lived between 339 and 397. As bishop of Milan, Ambrose first used “missa” as a term for the “Lord’s Supper” and by the end of the 6th century this term was almost exclusively used. The word came from the Greek word, “mitere”, which means “to send or dismiss.” In the in early days of the church, the “eucharistic” service was divided into two parts – those receiving instruction (catechumens) were allowed to be there during the first part, but only the faithful (those who had been baptized) could remain for the second part. Thus there were two dismissals pronounced by use of the Latin words “Ite misse est” (“Go, you are dismissed.”) So “missa” came to refer to the dismissal.
Later, when the service became connected so that there was no mid-way dismissal, the entire service was called “missa.” In Old English, that came across as “maesse,” and in Middle English it was called either “messe” or “masse.” Thus, and we may say that this is rather sad, the worship gathering became known for the ending pronouncement. It would be calling a basketball game the “Buzzer,” or a theatre play, the “Curtain.” One wonders if the service had become so dull that the most exciting part was the dismissal!”
Am I the only one that got alarmed when I read this?! The root meaning behind the word “mass” signifies “you are dismissed” or “the dismissal.” Are you kidding me?! At its root the word “Christmas” means “Christ’s dismissal” or “Christ, you are dismissed.” Sounds crazy. Doesn’t it?! A true investigative journalist would simply denote this without prejudice in order to ferret out the truth. If there’s no supporting evidence, he’d throw out the madness.
Unfortunately, for Christians, that’s not the case. When we read Ezekiel 8 with the understanding that Christmas Day’s immediate predecessor was the Mithra’s Winter Festival – the Nativity of the Unconquered Sun – we have to note two things. In Ezekiel 8:6, God’s talking to Ezekiel and says, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing … things that will drive Me far from My sanctuary?” Then the Lord speaks of four idolatrous practices that He has listed in increasingly detestable order in His sight. Check out Ezekiel 8:3-5; Ezekiel 8:9-12; Ezekiel 8:14 and finally Ezekiel 8:16. The fourth and most detestable practice God describes to Ezekiel in verse 16 that drives him from His sanctuary – Christ’s dismissal – is the sun god worship immortalize in the roots of Christmas Day. The pagans would have recognized their own solar cults in the church’s practice of orienting their cathedrals to the east, worshiping on “Sun Day,” and celebrating the birth of the deity at the Winter Solstice.
“Then He brought me into the inner court of the LORD’s house. And behold, at the entrance to the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs to the temple of the LORD and their faces toward the east; and they were prostrating themselves eastward toward the sun.” (Ezekiel 8:16 NASB)
Note that even today, pagans still celebrate the Winter Solstice when they mark Christmas. Another thing I’d like to point out is that I’ve heard for years that we want God to dwell with us permanently. Christians want to become His habitation, not just have a visitation. The Church has to look no further than this golden calf of America that dismisses His dwelling presence. (See “Where Christmas Comes From – Part 2” wp.me/p158HG-2m ) You want to be His habitation? This is the revelatory door you must come through. You must come out of Babylon, lay down Christmas to become part of His pure and spotless Bride. Please refer to “My Last Christmas” wp.me/p158HG-4E to see how the Lord personally led me.
Finally, there’s historical proof to the point that Christmas actually means the dismissal of Christ. Miracles, signs and wonders (works of power) were a common occurrence prior to the pagan festivals becoming assimilated into the Church. I’m sorry to say the works of power subject will have to wait for another time. You can do your own research, and I pray that you do. Hold fast to the Head, Christ, and hold loosely to everything else, because we know that the Lord is literally shaking everything that is not of His Kingdom.
Copyright Dec. 5, 2012 – Author: Robin Main.
Most references to the things I write on this blog can be found in my book SANTA-TIZING: What’s wrong with Christmas and how to clean it up (available on amazon http://www.amazon.com/SANTA-TIZING-Whats-wrong-Christmas-clean/dp/1607911159/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1353692179&sr=1-1&keywords=SANTA_TIZING).